HOF172: NGUYEN Tho (Terry)

Tho (Terry) Nguyen was born in Saigon, Vietnam where he lived with his parents, brothers and a sister. His father worked as a medical professional and his mother cared for the household. He remembers the Communist invasion of Vietnam in April 1975. His family was afraid for their lives, enduring the constant bombing and the dead and dying individuals in the streets. In desperation and for their safety, his father moved the family to the hospital where they did their best to carry on with their lives while tolerating the scourge of Communist propaganda, the failing economy, the scarcity of food sources and the lack of freedoms that they had enjoyed in the past. Tho pursued his university education and spent several months entertaining the community as a singer in a local band. 

In early 1979, when Vietnam invaded Cambodia, Tho’s father’s fears for his family’s safety grew intensely. His father decided to pay local smugglers to help his children escape the country. In May 1979, the young adults were provided with fake identification. They rode an intercity bus that took them to a coastal town. After a few days, they boarded a boat that was about 24 meters in length with 524 other passengers. The boat was attacked seven times by Thai pirates during their 5 days and four nights at sea. On the fifth day, the passengers were saved by a West German ship that brought them to the coast of Malaysia. The passengers were housed temporarily by Malaysian authorities for a few days and later brought to an isolated island already inhabited by other refugees.

During their stay in Malaysia, the family met with United Nations officials who encouraged them to apply for asylum to one of several sponsoring countries. They eventually chose Canada. By the end of August 1979, they flew to Canada where they landed in Montreal where they were cared for at an army base. A few days later, they were offered the sponsorship of a local church group in the town of Truro, Nova Scotia. The family settled there for some time until they moved to Halifax where they settled permanently.